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What is enough information/education?
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I was talking with Mark recently who remarked about the challenges of communicating with a person with dementia, especially if an accent or speech impediment added to the difficulty. I agree. So many of our front line staff are of a different culture from the persons they care for.
Some suggestions: enunciate, speak slowly and deliberately, use simple unambiguous language, maintain eye contact and be aware of your body language. A smile, staying within 3 feet of the person, moving slower always within the person's view are additional suggestions.
This practice is actually meditative for the caregiver. It slows one down and most likely will match more closely that of the care recipient.
When I go to visit with a person with dementia, I take time to breathe deeply and walk slowly toward the house. I deliberately speak slower, ask for the TV to be turned off so I can concentrate on them. Background noise makes understanding more difficult and you may be adding confusion instead of eliminating or at least reducing it.
Another consideration: hearing loss presents similar challenges to communication that dementia does. In fact, before I discovered I had a 50% hearing loss in both ears, some thought I was developing mild dementia. Background noise is not easily filtered out so the person with hearing loss can concentrate on what is being said. If more than one is speaking, what is said can be distorted. In spite of telling people, especially the students I teach, many of whom are of a different culture and language, they continue to speak fast, switching subjects mid-sentence, and covering their mouth with their hand or speaking turned away from eye contact.
I'm not sure what it takes for others to understand these challenges for either the cognitively impaired or the person with hearing loss. I guess if you don't have either, you cannot appreciate the difficulties.
So, we must learn as much as we can about how a person with memory loss (or hearing loss) processes differently so we can stay in relationship with them. Educate yourself. Practice these suggestions. Your work with a person with cognitive challenges will be much more rewarding and freer of complications like resistance, irritability and confusion.
So that's my advice.  
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"It made me more aware of the impact I can have through proper communication."

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